Electricity is serious stuff, of course. But there are a number of items you can check to ensure electrical safety at home. And other sensible projects that only a licensed electrician should tackle. Here are two checklists to review.
Your home electrical safety checklist
Eliminate power strips
- There are two places to plug in on each outlet. That’s a hint! Overloading can create electrical and fire hazards.
When you must use an extension cord, make sure it’s rated properly
- Extension cords have ratings for amps/watts. If you’re running a 1,500-watt space heater, you don’t want to use a cord that isn’t rated for that purpose, as just one example.
Make sure there isn’t pressure on electrical cords
- Let’s say you have a lamp cord that gets caught under the wheels of a bed frame. As the frame moves and pressure is put on and off, this cord can short out and could cause a fire.
Don’t set foot in a flooded basement
- There may be electrical current running through that water. If you step in and the water is acting as a ground, you could be shocked. Or worse.
Close openings in breaker boxes
- Sometimes a circuit is removed and the space it occupied remains open. If any arcing occurs in the box, this opening adds more oxygen to the mix and can help a fire grow more quickly. You can buy plastic breaker inserts at a hardware store or home center and safely pop these in yourself.
Call Dig Safely NY before undertaking any digging projects
- If you, or a contractor, are going to dig on your property, dial 8-1-1 for Dig Safely NY. They will scan for and mark utility lines after you complete a request form.
Call your local utility for downed lines and tree issues
- Just like your mother said, never touch a downed utility line. Or if you have tree branches that could fall or interfere with lines, call your local utility.
A home safety checklist for your electrician
- New homes usually have an outlet every six feet. An older home may have one outlet per room! It’s a safer, inexpensive approach to add more.
Update electrical service amperage
- 200-amp electrical service has been the standard for 20 years. Most insurance companies won’t underwrite a home today with less than 100-amp service. Way back in the day, 60-amp service was the standard. If you haven’t upgraded, you may be overloading circuits, causing breakers to activate, and creating safety issues.
Make sure you have one main, modern panel box
- Sometimes small sub-panel boxes have been added to an electrical system. Often they are not installed properly, and simply “grafted on” to the existing service without adding greater capacity. This doesn’t meet code and could cause a fire or electrical outage.
Ensure that circuit breakers match demand
- You’ll note 15- and 20-amp circuits on your board. Do they match up with the appliances and devices you have installed and plugged in? If your breakers are tripping, it’s time to call the electrician.
Fix any loose wires in panel boxes
- Over time, or when wires are improperly doubled up, wires in your panel box can come loose. Again, a potentially serious fire hazard can occur.
By Domenic DeLeo
VP of Residential Installation